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Alex’s Ramblings June 2022

So far, June has been a little disappointing. Last month I was bemoaning the lack of rainfall. Although we have had a fair amount in the intervening period, the ground still remains fairly dry. Day time temperatures have been slightly above average but we have experienced some very cold nights which has impacted on the growth of my sweet peas and sweet corn in particular. Speaking of sweet corn, I was watching Gardeners World last Friday and Monty Don was making his first sowing! I shall be keeping a close eye on his results.

The saga of peat free compost continues in my garden. I have previously reported on poor results achieved, particularly with transplanted seedlings . Talking to other gardeners, their experiences seem to be similar with results varying depending on brand used. I have used specialist tomato peat free compost to grow my crop of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. Some  of the tomatoes are looking decidedly chlorotic so have started my feeding regime a little earlier than otherwise. I’ve had it told to me that certain of the luminaries in the gardening world have said that with peat free compost in general, it’s all about getting the watering right. Can’t disagree with that but surely, that’s always been the case.

In the greenhouse, I’m continuing to pinch out side shoots, some of which I’ve potted up to give me a longer  fruiting period. I picked my first tomatoes on 10th June last year so shall be a few days later this year. Cucumbers are producing a crop and to date I’ve picked seven fruits. Our grand daughters have commented how much tastier they are compared with shop bought! 

Outside, I’m expecting courgettes this week,  I’ve planted up my leeks and made a second sowing of French and runner beans. I’ve had to make a second sowing of mange tout as the pigeons seem to have had all but one of the first sowing. This time they have the protection of netting. My broad beans have been attacked by black fly. I blast then off with a fine jet of water from the hose. Pinching out the growing tip of each plant when the first pods are about 7-8 cms should prevent further attack. I’m expecting strawberrys in the next few days having protected the fruit with straw from a friendly local farmer and also ensured they are covered in a suitable netting. Otherwise it’s just a case of regular hoeing to keep things growing unhindered.

In the ornamental garden, dahlias should be in by now and I’ve taken the opportunity to fill in gaps with annuals. Roses are flowering nicely and the feeding regime started. Pots have been planted up which will require regular watering and feeding to ensure great results.

Last month, I mentioned I was off to Chelsea for the annual flower show which was being staged in the Spring again following the restrictions due to Covid. Well, it certainly was a full day out. It’s been many years since I last visited Chelsea and I have to confess to being somewhat disappointed. It seems to me to be heavily commercially orientated. While I can see that gardening related activities are a valid theme for trade stands, I fail to see what such things as fine art and the ability to buy a fashionable hat have much to do with gardening. 

The grand marquee failed to impress for me, lacking its usual  pizazz, however the trade stands exhibiting greenhouses etc were a particular stand out feature. The show gardens were a source of many inspirational ideas, some quite controversial. It may just be me but I felt that the show has become another venue on the social circuit for many. One of the additional things of interest was that I spotted a flock of parakeets flying in and out of the trees and a red kite above the site. Apparently kites were a common occurrence in the filthy streets of London in centuries gone by. Presumably they have found other sources of nourishment.

I’m now starting to think about the annual flower show that, this year has metamorphosed into a village show,  merely recognising what has occurred over the past years. I eagerly await the publication of the schedule so that I may start planning what I might enter. Hopefully you will be doing the same. 

In the meantime, happy gardening,


Alex’s Ramblings May 2022

As I write these ramblings we are experiencing our first rainfall for some considerable time. This is most welcome but we will need a lot more to make up the shortfall to date. The forecast for the next couple of weeks is no looking too hopeful and with temperatures forecast to be considerably above average I fear we will have to resort to manual watering. This lack of rainfall at this time seems to becoming the norm so if you haven’t already, maybe it’s time to purchase a water butt or even two. They are easy to install and will last many years. 

Last weekend saw the staging of our annual plant sale. This year we were able to hold it in the Village Hall in an unrestricted environment. It was great to see so many attend and to be able to purchase from an enormous range provided by our members. It was a very warm day and all were able to enjoy a cup of tea/coffee and a piece of cake. It was a joy to be able to do this following the privations of the just two years due to Covid. Proceeds from the day amounted to £530 which is winging its way to Ukraine. Thanks to all those involved in staging the event and to all those who came along and spent freely.

I mentioned in previous ramblings my use of peat free compost in my gardening and although it’s early days I’m a little disappointed with some of the results particularly with seedlings that have been  pricked out. After only a couple of weeks they are a looking quite chlorotic. It is claimed that the compost contains sufficient nutrients for six weeks but the results I’m seeing lead me to doubt this. I shall keep a close eye on the situation and will report back in due course. In the meantime I would be happy to hear of anyone else’s experience with this medium.

Jobs for this month are to continue with successional sowing of vegetables, carrots, lettuce, beetroot, peas, French and runner beans. After hardening off, I’ve planted out my courgettes and hope to do the same with sweet corn which I’ve had to re sow due to very indifferent germination,  later in the month. The end of May should also allow me to plant out my dahlias. Keep tying in your sweet peas and supporting cordon grown tomatoes. Keep an eye out for any late frost and be ready to give the necessary protection.

Finally, for those keen to encourage wildlife in their garden, this month has been designated “no mow May” giving wild flowers a chance to develop. For those who are prepared not to mow or set aside an area from May to September we are promised a plethora of wild flowers and associated insects beneficial to the garden as a whole.

I’m off to Chelsea for the first time in a number of years and hope to pick up new ideas whilst marvelling at the professional growers expertise.

Enjoy your gardening,


Alex’s Ramblings April 2022

It’s the beginning of April and there has been a distinct change in the weather. We were experiencing some quite unseasonably high temperatures last month but have come down to earth with a severe bump. Temperatures are below average although we are promised an upturn. In the meantime we are still experiencing frosts which mean that I am having to protect earlier sown crops at night.

Last month, I added postscript advising that I had learned that the RHS were no longer classifying slugs and snails as pests and would be withdrawing slug pellets from sale. Well, things have moved on and we learn that the Government have banned the sale of these from 1stApril 2022 advising that metaldehyde pellets can seriously poison other animals. The organic alternative seems to be the use of nematodes. These are microscopic creatures that parisitise garden pests including slugs and snails. They release bacteria into the host’s body to kill them and is applied by watering on the target area. Trying be more environmentally friendly, I’ve not used slug pellets for some time, I’d be interested in hearing anyones experience with nematodes.

Harking back to lasts month’s ramblings where I suggested using peat free compost in the garden, I am pleased to report that for the first time in my experience with the garden centre I use, peat free grow bag compost is now available. It costs the same as peat based compost although the quantity contained is somewhat less so, pound for pound, is a little more expensive but a price surely worth paying for the environmental benefit. I shall be using this for growing my tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and chillies while closely monitoring for any variation in cropping results.

By now, you should be well advanced with seed sowing. Although I have been a little slow this year I shall be catching up with sowings of beetroot, carrot, squash, beans etc. Don’t be put off sowing if the dates shown on the seed packet have passed. Sow them anyway. Plants have a habit of catching up on earlier sown crops.

In the greenhouse, I am about to final pot up my tomatoes and cucumbers moving onto peppers later in the month. Outside, it’s time to plant potatoes and I shall be preparing trenches for sweet peas, runner and French beans. These will be filled with home produced compost and newspapers to creat a damp rooting environment which they will appreciate.

Each year, out of curiosity I try to grow something I’ve not tried before. Last year I tried okra. Having read the long list of possible pests and diseases from growing in a greenhouse, I raised them outdoors. I have to report they were a dismal failure. This year, I’m taking the risk and growing indoors. My never before tried plant this year, is samphire which is naturally found by the seaside. Apparently, excellent results can be obtained in the vegetable plot, watering with a salt solution. Watch this space! 

Other activities for the next few weeks will include: dead heading daffodils, completing the splitting of herbaceous perennials, taking softwood cuttings from deciduous shrubs and potting up dahlia cuttings taken from tubers stared into early growth.

Finally, don’t forget the plant sale we are holding May 7th in the Village Hall. This will be the first face to face plant sale held since the start of the pandemic. Do come along with any spare plants, chat with fellow gardeners while enjoying tea/coffee and a piece of home baked cake. All proceeds are to be donated in support of the situation in Ukraine.

Hope to see you there and in the meantime, enjoy your gardening.


Alex’s Ramblings October/November 2019

Apologies for going awol since my last ramblings in August. This has been due to works on the house which took far more of my time than anticipated.

Let me first of all congratulate the show committee for staging, yet again,  a tremendous show. The horticultural element was another outstanding success with entries up on previous years. Thank you to all those who entered, putting on a tremendous display of fruit, vegetables and flowers and congratulations to the prize winners. I do hope that the displays will have given more of you an incentive to enter. I  look forward to seeing the prize winners at the Society’s AGM in November where they will receive their awards.

We seem to have had an extraordinary amount of rainfall in the last eight weeks which has curtailed opportunities to get outside onto the garden. Since the staging of the show my efforts have been largely targeted on harvesting and storage of crops. Onions and shallots were brought inside at the beginning of September. My butternut squash which after a slow start, did manage to produce an excellent crop have just been brought in and stored. Swede sowings failed entirely so I am left with beetroot, carrots and leeks and Brussels sprouts in the vegetable garden. I shall be lifting the beetroot asap leaving the carrots, sprouts and leeks in the ground. On the subject of leeks, I have grown some, what looked like really good specimens but recently have noticed a discolouration of the leaves and on closer examination have identified an infestation of leek moth. This is very disappointing especially as my neighbours crop which are planted  less than ten yards away show no signs of a similar infestation. On the positive side however, my sprouts which disappointed last year, look as though they will produce an excellent crop and now that the cabbage white butterfly seems to have disappeared for the year I can remove the protective netting.

I mentioned in my last ramblings that we have had visits from Mr Badger and that he had destroyed the broad bean crop. Well, he wasn’t content with that and subsequently moved on to the sweet corn. We had harvested the first two cobs, delicious they were too: the very next night, despite all my attempts to protect the crop, he returned, demolished and ate the whole lot. If I want to continue growing these crops I shall have to give some very serious thought to how I might successfully protect them.

As far as the ornamental garden is concerned, I have finally managed to get the lawns back to somewhere near their condition before the drought of 2018. Grass is an extremely resilient plant and I shall be scarifying them and  improving drainage by creating holes with the garden fork whilst gathering fallen leaves.

Dead heading and pruning is the order of the day. I shall be lifting dahlia tubers shortly and storing in a frost proof place for  over wintering. Roses are continuing to bloom and will get a light pruning for the winter to help prevent wind rock.

So what shall I be doing for the rest of the year? The greenhouse has been cleared of the tomato crop leaving sweet peppers and chillies to ripen. As soon as I have been able to harvest them, I shall be looking to clean and disinfect the greenhouse so that is ready for use next spring. Beds and borders will get a tidy up removing any debris. I shall be considering what has done well or poorly and what needs to be planted or removed. I already know not to repeat one glaring mistake I made this year by putting a red dahlia in entirely the wrong place.

Now we are back to GMT, the nights arrive even earlier and I shall be spending a night or two thumbing through seed catalogues deciding what I want to grow next year. I mentioned in a previous ramblings, this year has seen an increase in the type and number of of butterflies in my garden and shall be looking to increase the number of butterfly attractive species. Once I have made my seed selection I shall wait until Black Friday to order as most companies have amazing deals thus reducing costs by anything up to 50%.

As far as further ramblings are concerned, I’m heading into hibernation for a while and shall dream of the return of warm weather and getting out into the garden to achieve even better results than this year. Time will tell……

Good gardening,


Alex’s Ramblings July 2019

July ramblings,


As I write these ramblings for July, the Society has just staged its annual garden party at the home of David and Annie Scotland. Keenly anticipated, it lived up to expectation.  It was a grand occasion attended many members, held in a magnificent garden which was brimming full of inspiration for the many members attending.


At the same time, awards were presented for the “Best Garden in Wellow” competition. Contrary to my expectation that there would be few, there were 13 entries from owners of gardens large and small and great diversity. It would not have been easy to judge them and we were very fortunate to have as judge, the winner of the BBC’s Gardeners World gardening magazine “ Garden of the Year,” Wayne Amiel.


Each garden was visited and judged against criteria laid down by Wayne and awards were made as per the Royal Horticultural Society’s system i.e. bronze, silver, silver gilt and gold. Each garden was in receipt of an award and the overall winner was that of Di Dalgleish and Johnathon Knights on which Wayne commented he was “blown away” by. Receiving their award, Di and Johnathon invited anyone present to visit their garden the following day.I have just returned from such a visit and have to say that I was equally blown away by the garden that was truly visionary.


Back to more mundane matters: June served up a disappointment in terms of weather with below average temperatures and rainfall but things have improved of late but we could still do with a significant amount of rainfall. Today my water butts delivered their last drop of rainwater.


Most things in the vegetable garden are growing nicely particularly onions which were a disappointment last year.  The plot is bursting with vegetables of all varieties and we are currently eating, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, broad beans, carrots, mange tout, courgettes and so many strawberries we have been making jam with them. For those of you wondering why potatoes don’t get a mention in this list, it is because, like a lot  but not all gardens in the village I have soil bordering on the quite alkaline which results in potatoes suffering from blight which, although edible, would certainly not win any prizes on the show bench hence, I do not grow them.


In the ornamental garden, activity features mainly dead heading and feeding paying particular attention to sweet peas, roses and dahlias.


I pride myself on gardening organically and was interested the other day, to receive an email from a well known company offering a complete range of organic pest controls including, would you believe, ladybirds. Whatever next!


At this time of year, the tool that gets most use is the hoe, ensuring that plants get an unrestricted access to the best that the soil provides. I find it a most therapeutic activity. Most by now will have a good idea of what they want to enter in the show and schedules are now available. Don’t forget, even if you are not entirely happy with your produce it could well be that other gardeners are also suffering from less than perfect specimens. Let the judges decide. Don’t forget, the flower show is a week earlier than normal this year on Saturday 31 August.


Happy gardening,



Alex’s Ramblings March 2019 (First of the Year!!)

Well, here I am back again after the winter break sharing thoughts and experiences for the upcoming gardening year! Let’s hope it is going to be a more moderate one than last year’s.

The weather this past winter has not been as bad as last year. Who can forget “The Beast from the East?” February has seen record temperatures which prompted the sound of many lawn mowers in the vicinity. Snowdrops and crocus are all finished. Daffodils are bursting out. You could be forgiven for thinking Spring has arrived but as my mother would have said “we will probably pay for it later.” Temperatures have returned to a lower level but are still above the seasonal average and it is heartening to see more of the sun and experience the lengthening days. As I sit here writing this, we are experiencing some short, sharp showers which, pardon the pun, puts a dampener on things for a while.

No doubt all of you will by now be thinking of sowing seeds to get things off to a good start and I’m no different. If you haven’t completed your seed order, it’s not too late or you can pop into one of the local garden centres. All have clearance sales on and bargains are there to be had. A tip for your next seed order:  I managed great savings by purchasing on Black Friday. Don’t forget to bear in mind what you would like to enter into the flower show which is a week earlier than usual this year. I have already made sowings of onion in February and this month, three varieties of tomato, Sungold, surely the sweetest variety of all, Golden Sunrise, a yellow variety great for salads and grilling and San Marzano, great for cooking. Together with the tomatoes, I have also made sowings of peppers and cucumbers. With the plant sale scheduled for May 4th this year, I have sown extra of all of these. It would be great if you could do likewise. Last year’s sale was a great success and we are hoping this year’s will be even more successful.

As the month progresses I shall be making sowings of sweet corn, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, leeks and lettuce in the sparkling clean greenhouse which was one of those winter jobs I did manage to get round to!  Speaking of winter preparation, all of my vegetable beds are available for planting and those on my allotment have been covered since the autumn so I am hoping to get early plantings of onions and sowings of carrots, beetroot and parsnip later this month.

As far as the formal garden is concerned, my attempts to repair the ravages of last year’s drought have been pretty unsuccessful. I am undecided whether to redo each of them or purchase new turf with which I can patch the affected areas. My borders have been afflicted for some time with an inundation of wild strawberry which manages to root itself very cleverly in the very centres of my bedding. The grandchildren do enjoy picking and eating the tiny fruits but they have to go and to that end, I have completely dug out my largest bed and am in the process of replanting with some existing plants from that bed but also with stock raised by myself in the summer/autumn of last year together with some bought in examples such as alliums, lilies and agapanthus. With an eye on the flower show, I am about to start off dahlias in pots from which I can take cuttings and hence increase my stock.

No doubt you will remember last year, the Hort Soc had pollinators as its theme for the year supported by talks, films and a bee walk  on the subject and I hope many of you will have or be about to include something in your garden to make life easier and increase the level of these creatures. This year the chosen theme is Climate Change. Most people I know think it irrefutable that the climate is changing. I remember my mother in the sixties moaning about climate changes although she did not call it that and blaming the atom bomb! I, as a know-it-all teenager at the time, dismissed such observations out of hand but now realise that although she may have attributed it to the wrong cause, she had witnessed in her lifetime perceptible changes to the climate. One leading organisation in the field has proclaimed “we are the first generation to realise what we are doing to the planet and we are the last generation able to do something about it.” A sobering thought indeed.

As gardeners one might ask: what can we do about it, it’s a global problem that will require global action and anything gardeners achieve will have little impact. Well, anything we can do will help and who knows where it might lead? A few suggestions for you to consider:

  • Garden as organically as possible with the aim of eradicating chemical use.
  • Encourage pollinators into your garden. Install rainwater collection devices.
  • Compost as much of your own material as possible: your compost will keep your soil in good heart which, in turn, will produce healthier and better crops.
  • Avoid peat based composts.
  • Recycle all that garden plastic material so that it does not end up in land fill.


If you have any further suggestions, drop me a line and I’ll share them with everyone.

In the meantime, I wish you

Good gardening,



What’s on 2019



Wednesday 13th March 7.30pm, Wellow Village Hall: a talk by Tony Davies entitled “Space and Climate Change”. There will also be “climate-change-friendly” plants for sale.
Wednesday 3rd April, a visit to Downside Nurseries at Westwood. 
Saturday 4th May 2-4pm, Wellow Village Hall: the annual Plant Sale. Tea, coffee and cakes available.
Saturday 6th July during the day and NEW to Wellow, “Best Gardens in Wellow Competition” (this is not an open gardens event – only the judges will be going around).  Followed by the Annual Garden Party to be held at Cranborne, Wellow at 6.30 -9pm. The results of the earlier competition will be announced at the party.
Saturday 31st August, at Wellow Playing Fields, 1-5pm, Flower Show and Country Fair
October – details to follow on Apple Day
Thursday 21st November 7.30pm in Wellow Village Hall, AGM
December – details to follow on Wreath-Making Workshop